The Paleolithic or Old Stone Age

The Paleolithic or Old Stone Age began between 500,000 and 2 million years ago and lasted until about 10,000 years ago.

The term "paleolithic" comes from the Greek "palaios" meaning "old" or "ancient" and "lithos" meaning "stone." 

Life was difficult for Stone Age humans. In fact, until modern times, most humans had one goal in life—to survive.

To survive, humans need three basic things.
1. Water
2. Food
3. Warmth/Shelter

Naturally, we need oxygen as well, but we don’t have much control over that!

Without any one of these things, eventually all humans will die. The earliest humans had to work extremely hard just to make sure they had water, food, and shelter.

Paleolithic people had two sources of food.
• Hunting wild animals and fishing
• Gathering wild foods (nuts, berries, vegetables, etc…)

As a result, early humans were migratory—they moved around a lot. You know that animals migrate as the seasons change. Well, people had to follow the animals to continue to eat!

Generally, the men did the hunting. Women and children went out and gathered what other food they could find.


Hunters used sticks and rocks to hunt. At some point, they discovered that by hitting rocks together, they could make tools. These tools made the early humans’ lives a bit easier. It also allowed them to be more efficient in their daily tasks. We learn a lot about the lives of past people by examining their tools. Tools were so important, in fact, the material they were made of is used to refer to different ages of human history—the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, etc…

Fire is a force of nature. Imagine what could happen if you could harness that force! We have harnessed it, and we use fire for all sorts of things.

Life changed a great deal for the early humans when they discovered how to make fire on their own. It allowed them to cook food, warm themselves, and have light. Fire could also be used to cut down trees and protect against wild animals.

For most of history, people made shelter using whatever materials they had in their environment. Stone Age people were no different. Their shelters varied depending on where they lived. In Africa, people probably lived in tents made from animal skins. In colder areas, they probably built huts out of bones and hides. They did not build houses just yet because they were always on the go chasing their food. Their shelters had to be quick and easy to set up, tear down, and move.

When early humans learned how to make their own clothing, it allowed them to leave the warm areas near the equator and migrate north to Europe and Asia. This is very important because when they spread out, they began to develop different cultures.

Imagine trying to kill a big woolly mammoth without being able to talk to the other hunters. How about trying to teach your son or daughter to build a fire? Language is very important because it is one of the key things that allowed people to advance in technology and intelligence. If everybody who knew how to build a fire died without being able to teach anybody else how to do it, then we would have to learn the hard way all over again! Language allowed people to pass knowledge and traditions down to future generations.